Today, I made the tremendous trek out to the west side of Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays, NY on far eastern Long Island. It was over three hours there by two subways, two Long Island RR trains, and a short uber ride. Crazy, but it was worth, it — the water birds there were AWESOME, read on!
It was a bright, sunny day but quite cold — this place, which is extremely exposed on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, is known to be quite windy, but today the wind was relatively calm and the waters were wonderfully smooth. Still, I was glad to have four electromagnetic hand warmers — both for my hands and for my feet! Putting these little packets inside your socks and gloves when birding really makes it a more humane experience.
My target birds were Red-necked Grebe, Thick-billed Murre, King Eider, and Black-legged Kittiwake, all of which have been seen here recently and would be prospective life birds. Honestly, I would count myself lucky to get just one.
Upon arriving, it was evident that Harbor Seals were around in abundance! What a treat — can’t remember the last time I saw these.
SANDERLNG on the beach:
COMMON EIDERS abounded:
Next, I picked out a grebe-like bird with gray wrapping around to its chest and BOOM — I asked a few birders around me for confirmation and I had my life bird RED-NECKED GREBE, a species I have been searching for so tirelessly this year! Awesome!
There were a few very cooperative RED-THROATED LOONS around, as well:
Five WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, the most uncommon scoter species of the three in New York, flew by:
BLACK SCOTERS also appeared in numbers:
And my favorite, the SURF SCOTER!
RAZORBILLS, my first alcid species (puffin, murre, etc) of the day were around and I was happy to see them!
After a couple hours of birding, I was shivering violently so I needed to walk off the jetty and get lunch at the nearby seafood restaurant. On the way, I spotted these DUNLIN on the beach:
Lunch of fish and chips with hot chocolate was delicious and filling!
After I warmed up, I was back at it and saw this COMMON LOON:
Then, one of the birders, Sue F, told me she was looking at a COMMON MURRE and sure enough there it was through her scope! An awesome species I have only seen once before, in Washington state. I was able to snap a few photos, too! VERY uncommon for New York!
This drake LONG-TAILED DUCK showed nicely off the jetty:
Flyby DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT:
Male RED-BREASTED MERGANSER:
Then, I spotted my life bird THICK-BILLED MURRE which seemed to magically appear right alongside the jetty. Yet another New York rarity — I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe my eyes as this bird put on an energetic diving show for us, while also allowing for some photographs:
AWESOME is all I can say — this is probably my most memorable day of birding since I have moved to New York. Bird-of-the-day to the Thick-billed Murre with runners-up to Common Murre, Razorbill, Harlequin Duck, and Red-necked Grebe. So many amazing birds from which to choose!
World Life List: 964 Species (2 life birds today: Red-necked Grebe & Thick-billed Murre)